All around the web cries of “censorship” arose. An author even published a book detailing what happens when a couple has sex “the wrong way” and ends up being busted by the “Private Authoritarian Yellow-alert Pervert Adjudication League” (P.A.Y.P.A.L.).
I have the following to say about this issue.
I think that moral absolutes do exist in our society. Their boundaries may be fuzzy and ever changing, but they are there. The proof is that companies are anxious about being associated with products that cross these boundaries. They don’t want to be on the wrong side of the line if there is a negative consumer reaction. PayPal’s main concern is making money. If PayPal thought our society was OK with rape, incest, and bestiality, I am sure that this wouldn’t have been an issue for them. PayPal’s request to Smashwords was merely the exercise of their right to not be associated with some books that Smashwords was selling. That is not censorship.
Now, you may argue that even if this was not a censorship issue the end result is the same. Authors of works of erotic fiction with rape, incest, and bestiality cannot publish on Smashwords anymore.
I believe that what we have here is the clash of two rights. One is the freedom to express yourself, and the other is the right of others to aid you in expressing yourself. No one is saying that writers CANNOT write books with the above topics. No one is saying that if they do, they should go to jail. If that were the case I would consider that censorship. However, granting you access to sites to publish your work is another issue. If these sites consider your work objectionable it is their right not let you publish. That, for me, is not censorship.
Update: PayPal backtracked on its policy and has clarified that: The policy will prohibit use of PayPal for the sale of e-books that contain child pornography, or e-books with text and obscene images of rape, bestiality or incest (as defined by the U.S. legal standard for obscenity: material that appeals to the prurient interest, depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value).
As I said above, I believe PayPal has the right to do business with whom it pleases. But the least I would expect from them is to do some thinking before putting out these kind of policies. This retraction indicates there was someone asleep at the wheel.